Schools are beginning to offer online courses in social mediaMany schools are beginning to offer programs geared toward harnessing social networking for marketing, advertising and other business-related professions. Websites such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter have recently become revenue magnets that require more individuals who can control these outlets to benefit businesses.

Last year alone, Facebook brought in nearly $800 million in its sixth year of existence. The website currently has more than a half billion members who could potentially see a third party company's advertising or marketing ideas.

University of California enables business students to take online courses in social media starting in January

University of California (UC)-Irvine recently announced the unveiling of three new online courses in the school's social media and web 2.0 specialized studies program. Officials from the school said that these classes will benefit marketing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs.

They added that the program will provide knowledge to create and implement successful marketing programs using social media tools and storytelling techniques.

"With the dramatic increase in the use of social media in the realms of business and entertainment, UC Irvine Extension offers students cutting-edge courses, allowing them to advance their careers," said Melanie Mitchell, assistant director at UC Irvine Extension. "These courses give participants the skills to compete in an increasingly digital world, where the skills to create online marketing campaigns that engage audiences are crucial for success."

The online courses examine the new phenomenon of transmedia storytelling, which examines the psychology behind creating audience engagement and challenges the strategy of traditional business models. Furthermore, after completion, students will have the skills necessary to develop a comprehensive plan for social media efforts that are aligned to the specific marketing goals of the business.

Smaller schools such as Stephens College, located in Missouri, are also beginning to offer social media classes as part of their overall business programs, the Columbia Tribune reports.

Students can earn a specialty in this course of study by adding nine credit hours, which includes three online courses that occur in eight-week cycles.

Officials from the college told the news source that courses in social media include strategy, planning, measurement and analysis. Furthermore, they added that these classes will not teach students how to use Facebook or Twitter, rather it will help them understand how and when to use social media for advertising and marketing applications.

"Organizations of all kinds are using social media to communicate with constituents," Susan Bartel, chairwoman of the graduate business programs, told the news source. “It has changed the face of how organizations do business.”

Social media jobs are increasing in number

Recent studies from Consumer Affairs has shown that the demand for social media jobs has increased by nearly 600 percent in the past five years.

Experts from the New York-based marketing and social media firm Attention told the news source that just as social media hiring has increased, the pool of qualified talent is having trouble keeping pace, which has resulted in an imbalance of supply and demand. However, this shows a need for more schools to offer course dealing in online media.

They added that there are several levels of expertise within the social media profession, which includes the community manager, which oversees a company's online presence. Another popular opportunity is in the analyst or strategist field, which builds and monitors social media campaigns.

Other, more traditional professions are being melted into the social media field such as customer service, information technology, public relations, marketing and sales.

Individuals with a public relations degree are finding more employment opportunities from the social media boom. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job prospects in this field are expected to increase by nearly 24 percent over the next eight years.

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